Two major sports governing bodies in the United States have asked for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games to be postponed amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.
USA Swimming and USA Track and Field’s chiefs both sent letters to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee sharing their concerns about athletes and asking for the games, which are due begin in July, to be postponed.
But U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a statement that more clarity is needed before making such a decision.
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“The USOPC has complete and total empathy for the athlete community as they manage the terrible stress and anxiety caused by the current lack of certitude regarding the Tokyo Games,” Hirshland wrote. “We understand that the athletes have concerns about training, qualification and anti-doping controls, and that they want transparency, communication and clarity to the full extent possible.”
Hirshland said that the committee has also heard from some athletes who want to make sure their opportunity to compete in the games isn’t prematurely taken away “until we have better clarity.”
She said that the U.S. committee is in communication with the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee and has been following advice from the World Health Organization.
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“They believe that it is premature to make a final call on the date of the Games, and we believe that we should afford them the opportunity to gather more data and expert advice before insisting that a decision be made,” the statement read.
Her response came after USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey asked for the games to be postponed by a year. In a letter posted Friday on Twitter, he said he has watched athletes “struggle to find ways to continue to prepare and train” as the virus spreads across the globe.
“Our top priority at Olympic Swimming has been, and will continue to be, the health and safety of our athletes, coaches, staff, volunteers and other members,” Hinchey wrote.
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“Pressing forward amidst the global health crisis this summer is not the answer,” he wrote, adding that making everyone’s health and safety a priority is the “responsible thing to do.”
“Everyone has experienced unimaginable disruptions, mere months before the Olympic Games, which calls into question the authenticity of a level playing field for all,” he continued.
USA Track and Field CEO Max Siegel expressed similar concerns, telling Hirshland in a letter also posted on Twitter that it’s hard for athletes to find a safe environment for training. He said moving forward with the Olympics in July “would not be in the best interest of our athletes.”
“We acknowledge that there are no perfect answers, and that this is a very complex and difficult decision, but this position at least provides our athletes with the comfort of knowing that they have adequate time to properly prepare themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally to be able to participate in a safe and successful Olympic Games, and that they can shift their focus toward taking care of themselves and their families,” he wrote.
The 2020 Tokyo Games are scheduled to begin July 24. The Olympic Flame arrived in Japan on Friday.